Day 125 / 366
The latest episode of the podcast Writing Excuses deals with horror. At the end of the episode, the podcasters gave their listeners a homework assignment - take a story that is not horror and give it a horror-style ending, “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” as one of them put it. I’d never completed one of their homework assignments before, but I knew immediately that I wanted to take a crack at this one. So I did:
The Return of the King
From Book VI, Chapter 9: The Grey Havens
At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire. but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road.
At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.
Chapter 10: One Last Surprise
The next day, Sam had an errand that took him to the South Farthing. He completed his task, and as he was walking home in the late afternoon, he saw a column of smoke over Hobbiton. ‘Isn’t that odd now,’ he thought. ‘Seems a bit warm for a bonfire.’ He was right. This was no bonfire. As he turned the last bend in the road, he saw the source of the smoke - flames were shooting out the door of Bag End, and all the windows too.
Stifling a sob, Sam ran toward the fire but was stopped short of the entrance by two creatures whose like he’d thought he’d never see again. ‘That’s far enough,’ said one of the Uruk-hai, brandishing his scimitar. If Sam was shocked to see the orcs, he was astonished as he’d never been when another figure rounded the side of the hill and approached him.
It was an old man with long white hair. He was wearing a robe that at first appeared white but shimmered in many colors as he moved. ‘Saruman!’ Sam exclaimed. ‘But I saw you die! How …?’ He couldn’t finish his sentence.
The wizard laughed without mirth. ‘Did you really think a blade wielded by pitiful Wormtongue could slay me?’ he asked. ‘If Gandalf could return after fighting the Balrog, surely I, mightiest of the Istari, could survive an attack by that mongrel. I merely took a new form until the time was ripe.’
As he listened to the voice of Saruman, Sam saw sense in what the old man was saying.
‘All I had to do was wait until Gandalf and those meddling elves took ship,’ the wizard continued. ‘Now there is none left in Middle-Earth with the power to stop me from making all this land my own.’ He cocked his head in mock wistfulness. ‘I only wish your Ring-bearer hadn’t gotten on that ship. I was hoping to make him witness what’s about to happen. Ah well. It will be nearly as sweet without him.’
All the horrors of Moria and Mordor were no worse than this, Sam thought, these foul fiends in his innocent Shire. A question sprang to mind. ‘All right, then,’ he said, jutting out his chin. ‘What if … what if He comes back too?’
‘He? You still can’t say his name, can you?’ Saruman scoffed. ‘You mean Sauron? Nay, this triumph is mine alone. Sauron had great power, but he was a fool. He … how do you rustic folk say it? He placed all his eggs in one basket, the Ring. When the Ring was destroyed, Sauron was destroyed along with it. No, you need not fear him. You have enough to fear from me.’
‘Hobbits won’t allow it,’ said Sam, who had seen too much sacrificed during the War to believe it could end this way. ‘We’ll get word to King Aragorn, and we’ll see what he has to say about all this.’
‘You’re welcome to try,’ Saruman said, ‘but I don’t believe you'll have much success. My people have ringed the Shire. No one gets in or out unless I allow it. Once the play-king realizes what’s happening, I will have grown too strong for him to stop me.’
‘Then hobbits will do it. We’ll fight you ourselves,’ Sam said, choking back tears because he knew his words were hollow.
Saruman knew it too. ‘Oh, you’ll fight me, will you? You believe you little people are a match for my Uruk-hai?’ His voice became obsidian. ‘Try it, and every halfling in the Shire will die.’ His eyes gleamed as he leaned over Sam. ‘Well, almost every halfling, that is. Your two friends will live to witness my victory, those little princelings whose brains failed to grow along with their hat sizes during the War.
‘And you, Samwise, you’ll be with them, watching as I undo everything you’ve achieved. Soon enough, I’ll have all of Middle-Earth in my grasp. It starts today, right here in your precious Shire. And you will see it all.’
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